The Art of Hand Embroidery

Artisanal Embroidery Workshop

La Signare: The Passion for Embroidered Artworks

The Embroidery Workshops
  • Légende

    Work session at the workshop

The La Signare embroidery workshop is dedicated to the art of hand embroidery, a technique of textile decoration that adds patterns and ornaments to fabric using a needle and thread. This form of traditional craftsmanship requires the skillful intervention of an embroiderer who creates each stitch with precision.

Embroidery, a Decorative Technique

Hand embroidery is a textile decoration technique that involves adding decorative patterns or ornaments to a fabric using a needle and thread. Unlike mechanized or computerized embroidery, hand embroidery requires the intervention and skill of an embroiderer who performs each stitch manually.

Hand embroidery is valued for its timeless beauty, attention to detail, and the craftsmanship associated with it. It is a traditional craft with a long history and continues to be practiced and appreciated by numerous embroidery enthusiasts worldwide.

Gisèle, adorned in a red scarf, golden earrings, and a touch of black on her camisole, embodies the Antillean woman. She is meticulously embroidered with DMC cotton thread on an acrylic canvas.

The Origins of La Signare

The Signares, derived from the Portuguese word 'Senhoras' meaning ladies, referred to black or mixed-race women from the Petite-Côte of Senegal, particularly in the trading posts of Rufisque, then Gorée, and ultimately Saint-Louis until the mid-19th century. The situation of mixed heritage became entrenched, giving rise to the specific culture and world of the Signares.

Over time, this term came to apply to any woman who gained some renown, either due to her mixed heritage, her skill as a trader, often both.

The Signares were born from unions between Lebou or Wolof women, sometimes part of the local aristocracy, and Westerners. For example, a niece of the queen of Waalo named Ndate Yallah was also a Signare.

They were renowned for their captivating beauty and wealth, which they shrewdly multiplied through lacework, embroidery, glasswork, and gold jewelry.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, the late president of the Republic of Senegal, spoke of them in one of his poems about Signares.

A Signare fashion eventually emerged, revolving around the crafting of gold jewelry or the creation of headdresses and fabrics (originally called 'ceremonial cloths'), attempting to reconnect with times past.

Even today, 'Signare walks' still take place, such as during the Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival (2017) or the traditional Signares' Fanal Festival in Saint Louis, ultimately testifying to their influence over the centuries, emerging as strong and emancipated female figures.


Embroidered Artwork: Ndate Yalla
Hand-Embroidered Artwork: Ndate Yalla

The La Signare Embroidery Workshop

La Signare is a tribute to my Saint-Louisian origins, to my paternal grandmother who embodied the qualities of a Signare for me - her natural elegance, beauty, and wealth. It's also a tribute to all those African and mixed-race women who left their mark on their generation with their skills and demeanor. 

Being deeply passionate about handicrafts and artistic creation since childhood, crafting, drawing, and creating my own brand became essential for my fulfillment. I am and remain a lover of craftsmanship and hand embroidery.

Naming my brand La Signare always allows me to reconnect with that essential place where I grew up, that multicultural environment that nurtured in me a love for design, interior decoration, hand embroidery, and the art of beauty and elegance.

Fatoumata Dieng, the founder of La Signare

I am Fatoumata Dieng, born and raised in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

After about twenty years of professional life, the time came for me, a former private sector employee, to venture into entrepreneurship and make the most of my creative talents. Despite having no initial capital, I had a clear determination to face the challenges of entrepreneurship and handmade creation. This marked the inception of La Signare in Dakar in 2018. It was only in France, my adopted homeland, that I discovered another world of art through exhibitions.

2020 was a decisive year when La Signare expanded internationally with the online launch of La, offering handcrafted embroidery products (home linens) and African-inspired decorative items.

The manual activities I engaged in during family moments, in primary school, and during my time with the sisters were not forgotten. With a few sessions spent with the Arroutaines association, known as 'Les Doigts de Fées' (The Fairy Fingers), I specialized in needle painting. Other embroidery techniques were also added to my repertoire.

Today, I am taking art embroidery courses with the Eyral studio to diversify my skills, explore this world of art further, and bring my touch to African-inspired decoration and handmade embroidery.

My primary source of inspiration is nature, especially in how to make each of my creations unique and authentic

Fatoumata DIENG
Fatoumata DIENG, the fonder of La Signare, was born and raised in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Musée de la femme

Inaugurated on June 17, 1994, on Gorée Island, it is a tribute to all women. Women from here and elsewhere, bearers of history and promoters of lifelong education.

The main objective of the Henriette Bathily Women's Museum is:

  • To promote Senegal through the position and role of Senegalese women in the community, rituals, and popular and traditional arts.
  • To train women in trades for their financial independence.
  • To educate young people about the cultural and intellectual heritage related to Senegalese women, providing them with role models to encourage them towards success.
  • To serve as a center for studies, academic work, and documents from various seminars and conferences on the situation of women.
  • To be a place for cultural exchanges and expressions."

"In partnership with the museum, a joint exhibition took place from July 20 to 24, 2022. A La Signare boutique has been opened at the museum."

Hand-embroidered and handwoven pillow covers.
While waiting for guests, hand-embroidered and handwoven pillow covers.
Products entirely hand-embroidered.
La Signare's hand-embroidered and hand-painted products include the Ndate Yallah Mbodj painting, porcelain Limoges mugs hand-painted, as well as various embroidery accessories. These creations reflect a dedication to craftsmanship and the art of handmade.
With the Executive Director of the Museum
With the Executive Director of the Museum, who admires the hand-embroidered Gisèle painting.
The proper arrangement of products
The proper arrangement of products is essential to create an appealing and functional display.
Young foreign students who have come to study art in Dakar.
Young foreign students have come to study art in Dakar. The explanations about the embroidery techniques used on the embroidered paintings were in English!

The Embroidery Training Workshops

For all those who wish to discover the world of hand embroidery and have the motivation, workshops on needle painting and white embroidery are offered. Sessions can be conducted in groups or individually.

The techniques offered are:

Needle painting is an embroidery technique aimed at reproducing a design (drawing, photo, or image) on a material (fabric, canvas, etc.) by filling in the design using threads. It is done in satin stitch through successive long stitches.

White embroidery is a traditional technique of embroidery done in white on white fabric. It was originally intended for household linens. For bridal trousseaus, initials were embroidered on the trousseau, adorned with floral ornaments. White embroidery remains a timeless classic.

The Embroidery Workshops
The workshops on needle painting and white embroidery

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